Watercolor artist opens new exhibition at San Juan College
Michael Bulloch's roots at college run deep
FARMINGTON — With a grandmother who once was the head of the art department at San Juan College and a mother who was an accomplished watercolorist, Michael Bulloch grew up in an environment that never lacked in creativity.
When his grandmother babysat Bulloch and his brother, for instance, she routinely provided them with art supplies instead of plopping them down in front of a television or sending them outside with a ball. Bulloch can scarcely remember an idle moment from his childhood when he didn’t have a paintbrush or a sketch pad in his hands.
Even so, the idea of becoming a professional artist was one that was foreign to him in those days.
"As a kid growing up, I didn't understand why people bought art," Bulloch said today as he prepared for the opening of his latest exhibition, "I Dream in Color," Friday at San Juan College. "I always thought people could make it themselves."
Most children love to draw and paint, Bulloch said, but at some point, someone does them the disservice of telling them they don't know what they're doing.
"We kind of lucked out," Bulloch said of himself and his brother. "Nobody ever told us that."
As one of the more successful artists in the Four Corners, Bulloch and his work are probably familiar to anyone who has ever attended a quarterly art walk in downtown Farmington. But most of the pieces featured in this show — 35 full-size paintings and dozens of smaller images included in the first volume of his "art of the day" journal — are new, with the remainder having received only limited exposure elsewhere.
The exhibition reflects Bulloch's trademark style — impressionistic watercolors of mostly Southwestern landscapes or architectural landscapes done in bright, vivid colors. But despite his deep roots at San Juan College — he also teaches there and has served as the chairman of the school's Fine Arts Committee — this will mark his first show at the college's gallery since an early 2000s exhibition there that he shared with his mother and grandmother.
"It's nice to be back in the gallery and showing at San Juan College," he said.
Bulloch's use of color exceeds that of his grandmother and mother, both of whom work in a more muted style. He said he favored that approach himself initially, beginning his career sketching in black and white with a pencil or charcoal. But a couple of watercolor workshops he took opened his eyes, he said, and it wasn't long before Bulloch had left that monochromatic approach behind.
"I realized I liked those bright, vibrant colors," he said.
Hence the name of his new exhibition. Bulloch is particularly excited about how local art fans will react to the smaller images in the show, the ones he paints on a daily basis for his art journal.
The paintings are 6 inches by 6 inches and consist of work done by Bulloch from Jan. 1 through the early part of May. Bulloch was encouraged to begin the project by Artifacts Gallery owner and artist Bev Taylor, and, despite some initial reluctance, he has found he has enjoyed the process.
"I kept saying, 'I don't have time for that,' but she told me it doesn't have to be a painting every day — it can just be a quote," he said.
Bulloch began doing the small paintings on New Year's Day. In less than a week, he realized that the daily commitment to painting that the project required was driving his creativity rather than draining it, which is what he initially feared would happen.
"I used to think painting every day was not possible for me," he said. "But this has definitely taught me that if you make time for it, you can do it."
He also found he enjoyed working in the smaller format that the journal requires. Bulloch said when he posts the images on Instagram each day, he's been surprised by the fact that many viewers have assumed the actual paintings are much larger than they are.
"You don't have to worry about a lot of detail," he said. "You can just suggest some stuff, and it looks right when you post it online — and people think it's much bigger than it is."
"I Dream in Color" remains on display at the gallery through June 23.
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: Opening reception for Michael Bulloch's "I Dream in Color" exhibition
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday
Where: The Henderson Fine Arts Center Gallery on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington
For more information: 566-3464